Metro train comes close to hitting two workers

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Local,Liz Essley,Metro,Metro and Traffic

A Metro train narrowly missed hitting two track workers during a test, and an oversight group and Metro are now both investigating the incident.

The workers were inspecting the track between the Vienna and Dunn Loring stations about noon on Feb. 5 when they were almost hit by a train being used in Silver Line testing, officials acknowledged. The workers did not have the required 15-second notice to get out of the way of a Silver Line test train, said Tri-State Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Benton, who also said his group and Metro are classifying the case as a "near miss."

Benton said investigators are still determining why the workers didn't see or hear the train coming, and that one worker had a "superficial injury" to his knee after he jumped out of the way.

"They may have received a horn from the operator once the operator saw them," Benton said. "That's still part of the investigation."

Metro said a train carrying riders passed by the workers, sounding the horn and slowing down as required. The test train for the Silver Line followed but did not slow down.

"This train was apparently not aware of the presence of track inspectors and did not slow down as required, resulting in a 'close call' incident," Metro spokesman Philip Stewart wrote in an email.

Stewart said track workers in the area were told to "stand down" after the incident, workers were reminded of safety rules and the train operator was retrained.

Metro had another safety problem related to Silver Line testing later in the month, when a test train damaged signal equipment overnight. Trains on the Orange Line were forced to share one track during rush hour, causing significant delays, while crews repaired the damaged signals.

Metro had a rash of workplace deaths in 2009 and 2010, when four employees were killed in three incidents. Another Metro worker was seriously injured last year when he accidentally walked in front of a train at the Shady Grove rail yard and was trapped under a rail car for more than an hour.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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